Nightlife Guide 2013: Late-night bites

Louisville is a town filled with tasty late-night bites. And I’m not talking Taco Bell Fourthmeal here — I’m talking about some staples that aren’t cookie-cutter chains, offering food with real substance.

But when talking late-night bites, what are we really talking about here? Yeah, let’s just call it what it is: drunk-munching. You drink six beers, maybe pound a shot or two, and the next thing you know, your buddy Chip is shrieking, “Dude, we’re going for pizza!” (Although, if you actually have a friend named “Chip,” you may have problems more pressing than drunk-munching.)

The bad news is, you don’t normally crave a salad or an apple when you’re tanked. A recent study by Purdue University showed that alcohol consumption actually enhances the taste of salt and fat, which may be why we crave pepperoni and mounds of mozzarella instead of a banana. Oh boy.

Julie Woodmansee, registered dietitian and owner of Fit & Fabulous in Louisville, says there are both scientific and non-scientific reasons we get the drunk-munchies.

“Your body identifies alcohol as a toxic substance,” she says. “As soon as beer, wine or liquor enters your system, your body stops processing nutrients from food, and alcohol metabolism takes priority. Studies have shown that alcohol metabolism can interfere with the regulation of leptin and glucose, both of which play a role in regulating appetite, energy intake and metabolism.”

That said, she also notes that eating can help slow alcohol absorption — meaning that when the drunk-munchies hit, you should consider eating some Cheerios and maybe even putting some strawberries in there as well.

“If you are looking to sober up in a healthier way, choose whole grains, healthy fats and fruit,” Woodmansee says. “This may be a challenge when you are stumbling to the fridge.”

Or into a White Castle drive-thru lane.

The double-edged sword of drunk-munching is that salty, fatty, spicy foods “take longer to digest and can irritate the lining of the intestine, resulting in heartburn, indigestion and poor sleep,” Woodmansee continues. “Not to mention some crazy dreams.”

And when asked if one is better off to eat or puke when full-on drunkenness hits, she didn’t address the latter option directly, but did conclude: “When the room is spinning and your stomach is churning, you are better off staying away from food. … Hydrate with water and get some sleep.”

If you do get past that stage of making good decisions, there are plenty of options out there for you — just don’t say we didn’t try to help. With that in mind, here are five time-tested Louisville favorites to consider:

La Bamba (1237 Bardstown Road, open until 3:30 a.m.) — That’s right, burritos as big as your head — at 3 a.m., with the fluorescent-lit dining room in full vortex and your friends’ voices sounding like they’re a block away. Oh, the burritos are delicious — as are the tacos, with double soft shells and melted cheese in the middle to hold it all together — but you’re talking about a spicy, salty calorie-fest here.

Barbara Lee’s Kitchen (2410 Brownsboro Road, open 24 hours) — Ooh, Barbara Lee. Awesome, greasy-spoon breakfast food (try the chili and eggs), and the burgers aren’t bad either. This is definitely a sober-up spot, but it’s also a great place for a lazy Sunday morning breakfast. You won’t even have to get gussied up. Just throw on some jeans, a T-shirt and a baseball cap, and you’ll fit right in.

Twig & Leaf (2122 Bardstown Road, open all night on Friday and Saturday) — How many of us have found ourselves at the Twig & Leaf with a tequila buzz and a hankering for biscuits and gravy? Or chili cheese fries? Or the greasiest, most delicious half-pound burger on the planet for under $4? Yeah, that’s just what you need when you’re so drunk you’re smelling colors. Suck it, Wendy’s.

Burger Boy Diner (1450 S. Brook St., open 24 hours) — Don’t let the name fool you; this is another greasy-spoon catchall that attracts crowds daily for a wide variety of dishes. A half-pound burger here is just $3, but you can get everything from omelets to pancakes to pork chops, and it’s all easy on the wallet — if not your cholesterol.

Spinelli’s Pizzeria (614 Baxter Ave., open until 5 a.m.) — Once again, the name doesn’t fully cover it. Drunk and hungry? Consider a giant slice for under $4, or perhaps a mound of Philly cheese steak fries will help you get your second wind (and add five pounds of fat to your gut). And if you finish those and are still feeling the drunk-munchies, I have two words for you: Fried Oreos. You have been warned.